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The Austrian Political Scene Is Shaking Over The Arrest Of A Russian Spy

Austrian authorities have recently arrested Egist Ott, a former intelligence and security officer and former active member of the Austrian Social Democrats, on suspicion of espionage. The prosecution is accusing him of abusing his position to access and sell information to Russian intelligence services. The Austrian media have reported on his links to the top of Austrian politics, mainly from the ranks of the Freedom Party of Austria and the Greens party. These could be incriminated by his partial confession and alleged collusion with the prosecution.

Ott was an employee of the now-disbanded Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism (BVT), which was transformed into today’s Directorate of State Security and Intelligence (DSN). According to Kronen Zeitung, his contact was Jan Marsalek, a former board member of the German payment service provider Wirecard, who allegedly helped him set up a spy cell within the Austrian intelligence service. Marsalek fled Germany shortly after the collapse of Wirecard. According to some reports, he is now living in Russia.

According to the Slovenian Press Agency – STA, Ott, together with another BVT employee, obtained information for Marsalek, who then passed it on to the Russian intelligence services. In doing so, he allegedly relied on his past activities as an intelligence agent and police attaché in Italy. Spiegel reports that he allegedly passed information on journalists living in Europe to a Kazakh opposition politician. However, Ott denies all allegations made against him.

Conversations between Ott and Marsalek have been obtained by the British authorities, Kronen Zeitung reports, and these are said to prove beyond doubt that Ott systematically passed on confidential information to Russia. The information was not related to the activities of the now-disbanded office but was also obtained for Russia from police databases.

Who is uncomfortable because of the partial confession?

According to Kronen Zeitung, Ott has partially confessed to the charges while in custody and does not intend to appeal against the detention order. According to the same media outlet, this would suggest that he intends to negotiate with the prosecution.

This is the reason why many at the top of Austrian politics are said to be “shaking in their boots”. Ott is said to have significant links with members of parliament from the New Austria and Liberal Forum – NEOS, the Social Democratic Party of Austria – SPÖ, the Freedom Party of Austria – FPÖ and the Greens. The name of former Greens politician Peter Pilz, with whom Ott has been acquainted since 2009, has also been mentioned, as well as the name of the NEOS candidate in the European elections, Helmut Brandstätter and former FPÖ MEP Hans-Jörg Jenewein. Ott allegedly sold information to the latter. However, both Ott and Jenewein have denied the allegations.

The Austrian People’s Party – ÖVP sees the revelations as further confirmation of their belief in Russian influence on the Freedom Party, and in this, the Freedom Party has also become fatally entangled with the Social Democrats.

Ž. K.

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